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Image: Surian Soosay

Reviewed in Brief: New Excavations in the Valley of the Kings

Alter S. Reiss

A real-life archeologist offers a science fictional take on what it might look like to dig up Las Vegas in the future.

Image: Surian Soosay

What will future civilizations make of the great American experiment? Here, real-life archaeologist Alter S. Reiss describes a fictional excavation of an all-too-real place—Las Vegas—to wager a guess. "A few years back, I was sitting in a hotel lobby, working on a Harris matrix," Reiss says of this story's origin. "Which is a fiddly bit of archaeological book-keeping, and also one of the most important things to do correctly, in order to make sense of a site... There's a tendency in archaeology to identify every large and fancy building as a palace, and the hotel was a large and fancy building, whose lobby was filled with high status materials like marble and brass and cut glass and so on. And there were a couple of hotels in a row—a palace district, presumably." And what might this palace city reveal about US culture, to the archeologists of tomorrow, thousands of years from now? Well—enjoy. -The ed


New Excavations in the Valley of the Kings (Las Vegas). Silentnight Acama, Malbanchia University Press, 108, 7th New Baktun.

Ever since its discovery in the late 5th Baktun, when we had only the sketchiest understanding of the world of the Coca-Cola peoples, the Valley of the Kings has been recognized as one of the central sites of the North American Petroleum Age. While it is currently believed that the republican period capital was located somewhere on the east coast—New York/Newark, Columbia, or Halifax being the most probable sites—the unquestionable majesty of the Las Vegas palace district makes it clear that this was the eventual seat of the American Empire.

For those who appreciate strict accuracy in historical simulations, the meticulously researched cores supplied by Malbanchia University are indispensable. The newly released Valley of the Kings update, supervised by Silentnight Acama, is no exception.

Early work in Las Vegas concentrated on the vast palace complexes, each a masterpiece of Imperial art; current research indicates that the castles recreated the monuments of loyal vassals or defeated foes. Faithful reproductions of European cathedrals, Egyptian sphinxes, and trophies from the currently unidentified "planet Hollywood" must have produced an unimaginable sense of awe in the tens of thousands of pilgrims that visited the Valley of the Kings every day.

Over the last k'atun, excavations directed by Dr. Acama have left the palace district, concentrating on the lives of those pilgrims, as well as looking for a broader understanding of the American Petroleum Age through an analysis of its greatest city.

Dr. Acama's findings from these outlying areas of the great city are the source of most of the updated information in the Valley of the Kings core, though new analysis of older findings from the palace district have not been neglected. While some of those findings confirm earlier work, as well as the songs and legends of the region's natives, others are considerably more surprising.

Previous examination of Petroleum Age sites in North America revealed the practical and ritual importance of automobiles, and these new findings underline the direct importance of the automobile in the Imperial Cult. During its period of occupation, the natives constructed a large artificial lake to the east of the Valley of the Kings, and careful excavation of the dry lakebed has uncovered evidence of the ritual sacrifices that were conducted there.

These automobile burials typically consist of a single adult male, often dispatched by a gunshot to the head, and weighted down and lowered beneath the life-giving waters of the lake. Similar to the river burials found in the New York/Newark excavations, these show the reach of the Imperial cult; there can be no doubt of the importance of the nexus of automobiles, firearms, and water to the Coca-Cola peoples.

The use of concrete in these burials connected the victims to the massive architectural accomplishments of the age; the concrete served as a symbolic corner-stone burial, interring the victims in the same matrix that built the roads and sporting arenas of the age.

One of the many set-piece reenactments included in the Malbanchia University cores is of a ritual sacrifice and automobile burial of this sort. While many of the elements of the reenactment are speculative, there can be no denying the primitive majesty of the Petroleum Age natives, with their ornate garb glittering with logos and rhinestones.

It is interesting that no erotic elements have been definitively linked to the ritual sacrifices, given the centrality of sexuality in Imperial cultic practices. In local legend, the grand processional road of the palace district was known as the "Strip," suggesting a direct connection between erotic nudity and the palaces of the greatest empire the world had ever seen. While ethnography can be unreliable, excavated remains show that the primary artistic focus in the Valley of the Kings was on female sexuality, and sacred prostitution was one of the primary methods of devotion for the pilgrims visiting the Imperial City. The historical simulations of those devotions may well prove one of the more popular aspects of this core upgrade, given the variety and energy of the primitive practices so painstakingly reproduced.

Some questions remain as to the nature of the ritual items located in nearly every public space in Las Vegas. Mechanical analysis shows some connection with games of chance, but as sexual imagery is the most common decorative element on those machines, it is possible to connect their use with the eroticism of the Imperial cult. There are far fewer questions when it comes to the bewildering variety of "wedding" temples, some of which were actually located in the palace complexes, and which were certainly places where pilgrims were "married," however briefly, to a physical embodiment of the cult and state, which Dr. Acama identifies as 'Lady Luck,' the genius loci of Las Vegas.

While some might question devoting a core update to a single site, even one so central as the Valley of the Kings, the implications of Dr. Acama's work extend to smaller, less central sites. Spokane or London cannot simply be viewed on their own terms—the savage majesty of the Petroleum Age can only be fully understood refracted through its most grandiose expression, the palaces and processional roads of Las Vegas, The Valley of the Kings.